Purple Tang

From Microcosm Aquarium Explorer

Zebrasoma xanthurum - (Blyth, 1852)
Purple Tang

Zebrasoma xanthurum.jpg

Aggressive but beautiful tang from the Red Sea. Alf Jacob Nilsen/Bioquatic Photo


Here is a magnificent Red Sea beauty that was once rare and breathtakingly expensive, but is now readily available in the aquarium trade and is often used to help control algae growth. It is prudent to keep just one per tank unless the system is extra large. Although it often causes no problems in the reef aquarium, it has been known to nip clam mantles and large-polyped stony corals—especially if food is in short supply.

Family: Acanthuridae

Other common name(s):

  • Yellowtail Tang

Native range:

Habitat: Reef. Provide several larger caves or crevices in which it can shelter when threatened. It also needs plenty of swimming room.

Maximum length: 25 cm (10 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 380 L (100 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: All levels.


Herbivore. Offer algae-based foods at least three times a day, as well as freeze-dried algae flakes or sheets of seaweed (nori). If it has lush live algae in the tank, it may require less feeding.

Aquarium Compatibility

This vividly colored fish usually acclimates readily to aquarium life, spending more time in the open as it gradually becomes accustomed to its new home. If startled, it will dash into a bolt hole, but will soon reappear.


Egg scatterers that produce pelagic eggs, often in midwater mating rituals. Both eggs and larvae that drift with plankton in the water column and settle back onto a reef at about the time of metamorphosis. These are among the most challenging types of marine fishes to propagate in captivity.


This is a rather aggressive tang that is particularly intolerant of members of its own genus or other algae-eating species. While it usually ignores bottom-dwelling species, it is likely to attack fishes with similar shape or behaviors. It will use the sharp spine at the front of the tail to slash at fishes or aquarists it perceives as a threat.

Reference: 101 Best Saltwater Fishes
Image credit: AJN
Text credit: SWM